A plane crashed while attempting to land in stormy weather at a small airport in Taiwan on Wednesday, killing at least 47 people, officials there say.
TransAsia Airways Flight GE222, which originated from the southern port city of Kaohsiung, was carrying 54 passengers and four flight crew when it crashed during a second landing attempt on the typhoon-battered island of Penghu, officials said.
There were conflicting reports about the number of fatalities.
Taiwan's Transport Minister Yeh Kuang-shih told the government's Central News Agency that 47 people were "trapped and feared dead" and 11 others were injured in the crash. Earlier, a fire official said that 51 people had been killed and seven had been injured. Reuters reported 47 people were killed in the crash, citing China's Xinhua news agency.
The plane, a twin-engine turboprop ATR 72, was en route to Magong when it attempted the emergency landing, Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration told the Associated Press.
Typhoon Matmo hit Taiwan on Wednesday, bringing heavy rains and strong winds to the region.
"It was thunderstorm conditions during the crash," Hsi Wen-guang, a spokesman for the Penghu County Government Fire Bureau, told reporters. "A few empty apartment buildings adjacent to the runway caught fire, but no one was inside at the time and the fire was extinguished."
According to TransAsia's website, eight earlier flights from Kaohsiung to Magong were canceled on Wednesday. A midafternoon flight did make it, but it took more than twice as long to complete the usual 35-minute trip. All flights after the crash were canceled.
In a statement, President Ma Ying-jeou called it "a very sad day in the history of Taiwanese aviation." Hsu Yi-Tsung, TransAsia Airways' general manager, "bowed deeply before reporters and tearfully apologized for the accident," the Central News Agency said.
According to the Central News Agency, about 200 military personnel were being sent to help recover the victims.
Video taken in the aftermath of the crash shows rescue workers with flashlights sifting through the plane's wreckage in what appears to be a residential area.
Other photos appear to show that the plane plowed into homes near the airport.
Another image broadcast on local television shows what appears to be a fire near the site of the crash.
Prior to Wednesday's crash, TransAsia had eight reported incidents since 2002, including six involving the ATR 72.
The manufacturer of the plane said the 68-to-74-seat twin aircraft was manufactured in 2000.
"ATR expresses its deepest sympathy to the families, friends and to those affected by the accident," the company said.
Malaysia Airlines, which operated the doomed flight that crashed in Ukraine last week, killing 298, offered its condolences to TransAsia Air via Twitter:
Below, a map of the region.
With Jason Sickles and Siemond Chan contributing reporting.
- Disasters & Accidents
- Central News Agency
- TransAsia Airways